Diane in Scotland

I’m in Scotland. And the wi fi here is not letting me post photos, so let me tell you a little of what we’ve done so far. I’m traveling with Kristine Hughes Patrone of Number One London Tours on her Scottish Writers Retreat. The retreat is just starting today and we are joined by a group of ten writers and readers for seven days of visiting castles, towns, and other sites. We are staying at Auchinleck House, where Boswell once lived.

We’ve visited Edinburgh and walked the Royal Mile from Holyrood Palace to Edinburgh Castle, shopping in between. After our day there, we went by train to Blair Atholl and toured Blair Castle. We had a shopping expedition to Pitlochry. We also took a marvelous “safari” up the mountains on Blair’s property. I wish I could show you the photos from that!

Next we went to Glasgow, the highlight of which was a bus tour with Harlequin Historical author Marguerite Kaye. We also spent a couple of hours wandering through the Necropolis, a fascinating cemetery.

The adventure is just beginning, though. I’ll post photos when I get back!

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Looking forward to spring (I will explain)

Hello.  Some of you may know that I recently moved to a new house. I had originally planned to leave the landscaping/garden alone for a year to get a feel of everything, and start planting next spring. However, I recently realized that if I don’t plant spring bulbs now (there are just a few, sadly isolated tulips right now), I would have to wait until spring of 2020. That’s just too long!

So I’ve looking through online catalogs and thinking about what I’d like.  Where I lived before, chipmunks ate my crocuses and deer ate my tulips. So I mostly just enjoyed my grape hyacinths and my daffodils.

Spring bulbs could have been a part of a Regency family’s flower garden. One of my go-to references for Regency gardening, William Cobbett’s The English Gardener (1820), mentions many of our favorites, including snowdrops, crocuses, daffodils, hyacinths, and tulips.

Tulips were introduced to England sometime in the late 1500s. (Here is a wood block print of tulip types by John Parkinson, printed by Humfrey Lownes and Robert Young at the signe of the Starre on Bread-street hill, 1629.) There was a “Tulipomania” craze in the early 1600s, when bulbs reached prices 10 times normal, which broke in 1637. Tulips continued to be grown after that, of course, but became more wildly popular again in Victorian times.

Some interesting information on tulips: History of Tulips from the Heirloom Gardener

To learn more about the history of tulips in England and where you might see some good displays, check out “Tulips Through Time” from English Heritage.

For my own garden, I am going with a palette of mostly blue, pink, and purple (my daughters’ and my favorite colors), along with some white.

I am thinking about Siberian squills (Scilla Siberica) for early color. Cobbett lists a type of squill in his book but I think it is Scilla Italica.

For daffodils, I am thinking of going with a variety that did very well at my previous house.  It’s called “Ice Follies”. Its cups start out yellow and fade to white, and it has a leasant scent.


I also want some hyacinths. These are listed as “English wood hyacinths” which makes them sound similar to bluebells, which I think are in the hyacinth family, but these are actually Hyacinthoides Hispanica.

I’m still mulling what tulips I would like. I’m pretty sure I want pink, but there are many kinds I like. One is called “Angelique”–I had planted some of those at the previous house, where they looked lovely until the deer bit them off, leaving sad green stalks behind. I also like lily-flowered tulips, and these more conventionally shaped ones, called “Pink Diamond”, which are a lovely color.


What do you think? Which of these tulips do you like best? Do you have favorite bulbs you like to grow?

Elena

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Challenging a Claim to a Peerage

So, I missed my July post (sorry). I was in Denver at the 2018 RWA conference. While there, I gave a workshop on inheriting peerages. It was a lot of fun, and people got really into it. They came up with all kinds of crazy situations to ask me about. I wanted to share part of the workshop here, so that those who didn’t make it could still benefit.

House of Lords, 18th Century WikiCommons

One important thing to understand is that  the crown can’t take a title away. That power lies only with Parliament, and Parliament has already stated flat out that once a man is ennobled, this can not be changed except by an act of Parliament. This is called an act of Deprivation. As a matter of public policy it has only been done once (Duke of Bedford 1478; the man was ruled to be too poor to support the dignity, and his state was a result of his having failed to properly care for the lands he’d been given with the title; essentially he was ruled too incompetent to be a duke). The only real reasons for Deprivation seems to have been a peer being convicted of treason (even a murder conviction, as in the case of the 4th Earl Ferrers, didn’t result in the title being lost; it passed to his younger brother after he was hanged). Debt became a legal reason for such an action under the Bankruptcy Act in 1883, but it would have been very unlikely to have been used in the Georgian/Regency period. If you read the section on Deprivation and the Earl of Waterford (p. 227-230) in the law book I link to in the post you’ll see that in 1832 it was ruled that really what Parliament and the crown were allowed to take away were really only those things that the king could “have and enjoy” and this did not include dignities, but was limited to physical things such as land.

So, that means if there’s going to be a challenge, the story will have to be shifted back in time to the point when the hero was making his petition to the crown. The man who would inherit if the hero were illegitimate (or his guardian if he is a minor) would have to apply to Parliament to present their own claim and in that claim they would have to provide the proof of the first claimant’s illegitimacy.

Now here’s the second sticky wicket: English law was HEAVILY weighted in favor of all children of a marriage (all those produced by the wife) being considered legally legitimate regardless if everyone knew that she had lovers and the kid looked nothing like her husband (see the infamous Harleian Miscellany; there were open doubts about the actual parentage of the countess’s children, but no challenge to their legal legitimacy).

In order for a child to be ruled illegitimate, the father would have had to have literally had NO access to the mother for the entire period surrounding conception (not just a few short weeks, but likely at least 3 months). And by no access, I don’t mean that the husband simply states that he never touched her, he had to have been unable to do so. If there was any chance that he COULD have been the father (and merely having access to her person was considered enough) then he was the father. He might not like it, but there wasn’t anything he could do about it (this is why a wife’s good character was so important).

As if this isn’t enough to get over, once the child was accepted, there was no changing his mind. The father can’t decide when the boy is five, or twenty, or when his elder son dies, when he himself is on his deathbed that he wants to cast off a child that has been legally established as his. Again, this is about maintaining the social order, making sure children are not cast off onto the parish, and ensuring that father’s are responsible for their children. The father’s suspicion or even outright knowledge that he wasn’t the father wasn’t enough to make the child a bastard in the eyes of the law.

So, it’s not enough that the second claimant show that everyone knew and admitted that the hero wasn’t fathered by the duke. The claimant has to show that under the LAW the hero was not a legitimate child of the marriage. This means that either the duke and duchess were not married before his birth (as in the already quoted Berkeley case; side note, if the title is Scottish, even this doesn’t work, as marriage legitimized bastards under Scottish law) or that the duke was absent from his wife for a period of months and could not have sired him (and even this might not be enough if the son was publically claimed by the father and had been treated as the heir, but at least it would be something for the Committee for Privileges to gnaw on).

What this comes down to is that it is likely that all the villain of the piece can hope to do is embarrass the hero (unless you want to shift back in time and make the book about the hero’s attempt to claim the title). It’s also likely that he’ll make further powerful enemies, as there are likely other sitting peers who know full-well they were not sired by their legal father.

I hope this was helpful, and I’m happy to answer any specific questions in the comment section.

 

Posted in History, Isobel Carr, Research | 1 Comment

George IV Visit to Scotland

At the end of the month I will be traveling to Scotland with Kristine Hughes Patrone of  Number One London Tours. We’ll be joining her Scottish Writers Retreat in Glasgow the second week, but first we’ll visit Edinburgh and sites between.

In August 1822 there was another momentous visit to Edinburgh. George IV traveled to Edinburgh on the first visit by a reigning monarch since King Charles I in 1633. The visit was encouraged by government ministers, because they wanted to keep Prinny from attending the Congress of Verona where the fate of post-Napoleonic war Europe was being decided.

There was another good reason for the visit, though. Scotland had been humming with unrest and the government was eager to avoid the revolutions that had rocked America and France. Even though George IV was rather unpopular, his visit was promoted by none other than Sir Walter Scott, who had been invited to dine with the King after the release of his popular novel, Waverley, which presented a romantic view of the Scottish Highlands that must have captivated Prinny as well as the general public.

Sir Walter Scott worked with others to plan the royal visit which was filled with the sort of pageantry that Prinny loved. Scott persuaded Prinny that he was entitled to call himself a Highlander, because of his Stuart bloodline. The King promptly ordered a highland outfit of bright red Royal Tartan, which he is shown wearing in the idealized portrait by David Wilkie.

I will be flying from London to Edinburgh, but Prinny arrived for his visit by ship and was met with the promised celebrations that had sent lowlanders and highlanders scrambling for the proper kilts. The celebrations lasted a little more than two weeks, almost exactly the amount of time I’ll be in Scotland. It also rained a lot and I am hoping that is not true for my visit.

I’ll be thinking of Prinny as I walk in his footsteps, walking the Royal Mile from Holyrood to Edinburgh Castle.

I just hope I won’t be carrying an umbrella?

Have you visited Edenburgh? What should we not miss seeing?

Read Diane’s latest!
A Lady Becomes a Governess, July 2018, Book 1 in the Governess Swap Series
Available now from online vendors.

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Needlework, Shawls, and More from Concord

I beg your indulgence for offering a second post based on my visit to the Concord Museum back in June, but there was just so much to love and share in that small exhibit on “Fresh Goods”! I do recommend it, if you are within a reasonable distance of Concord, Massachusetts. It runs through the end of this month. (Besides, Concord is such a great place to visit, with a rich history and strong literary connections as well. But let me not digress.)

When I hear “needlework” in connection with our Regency period or earlier times, I tend to think of those often-dreaded embroidery samplers, or funeral memorials, or other sorts of decorative needlework to be framed and hung on walls, handkerchiefs, or pew cushion covers and altar hangings to be donated to the local church.

What I saw at Concord reminded me that in those times, the essential skill of embroidery had many more practical applications.

For example, have you ever seen “pocketbooks” like these flame-stitched examples from the exhibit? (Sorry for the white dots-light reflections!) More like what we would call wallets today, they were flat and meant to fit into a man’s deep coat pocket or perhaps inside his waistcoat (but you wouldn’t want to spoil the fashionable line!). A woman could have carried one of these, also, when “pockets” were still tied around the waist and concealed underneath the skirts. Harder to do once the columnar styles of the Regency fashions came in! The design of the embroidery was a popular pattern in the late 18th century and early Regency. I’ve seen it on upholstered furniture of the same period, for instance. It is based on even older examples of needlework known as Bargello or Hungarian point. Can’t you just picture the hours of stitchery a loving wife put in to make one of these covers for her man, so he could be at the peak of fashion?

The expert quality of the embroidery on this beautiful example of a classic Regency dress was amazing, as was the effort put into making a plain muslin gown into something far more fashionable. My untrained eye could not see how the museum people determined that this dress was hand-embroidered to imitate spotted muslin, but that is what they said! I wish I had better photos of it to show you. Of course, thinking about a young woman spending endless hours working on her dress for the sake of fashion catches my imagination and tugs at my heart, since she apparently couldn’t get or couldn’t afford genuine spotted muslin. She knew just what she wanted!

Moving on from needlework, I want to share this beautiful bright red shawl (that I would have loved to take home). I am no expert on the history of dyes, so I’m not sure when chemical dyes first began to be used, but I do know that red this bright was historically a challenge to produce.  I also loved that they had a portrait of the owner wearing this shawl –it must have been a favorite of hers, clearly special! She was Ellen Tucker, who married famed Concord resident Ralph Waldo Emerson in 1829. (Sadly, she died of tuberculosis just 2 years later). A quick survey of Regency fashion prints show up lots of examples of red shawls, so she was certainly a la mode!

Shawls were such an especially important accessory during the Regency, I was surprised not to see more examples of them in the exhibit, but perhaps the museum does not have many in their collection. Given the skimpiness of the ladies’ dresses in the Regency period plus the lack of central heating, well, everywhere, you can understand why shawls were an essential accessory. Just to double up, one print shows a dress made from shawls on a lady preparing to don her shawl!

 Regency shawls were generally much larger and longer than modern ones –all the better to wrap around oneself, but is it any wonder that young ladies had to be taught the proper way to drape and wear them to be fashionable? Yet another social pitfall I’m pretty sure I would have failed as a Regency lady…although here is a picture of me in costume (some 20 years ago!) wearing a shawl with my dress, just to prove it had not quite slipped off yet!

Perusing the fashion plates looking at shawls, I ran across these two plates, one 1809, one 1822, that both show the popularity and continuance of the color and style of this fabulous purple dress that was in the Concord exhibit. It doesn’t fit into today’s blog theme very well, but you can see why I didn’t want to leave it out! It shows dramatically how Regency style evolved from the very straight early styles (the white dress) to the more triangular emphasis of the 1820’s, leading toward the Victorian era.

Do you enjoy doing needlework? If so, what kind? Or would you have found it an unhappy chore if you lived during the Regency? Do you think you would have had the patience to embroider an entire dress like the white one pictured above? Or, how about shawls? Do you ever wear them? What do you like or dislike about them? I’ll be wearing one Sunday at a bridal shower if the restaurant’s AC is too cold!

Posted in Clothing, Regency, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Progress on the Writing Space!

My writing room hasn’t changed too much from the last picture I posted–boxes and boxes of books, still unpacked, alas.

However, I have been making progress on replacing the home office furniture that didn’t make it around the bend in the staircase of my new house: my big desk and a tall bookcase. I have ordered a bunch of stacking, folding bookcases from the Container Store. I had originally thought about ordering bookcases that could be assembled in the room, but then how do I get them out again? These should make it in and out (even though I AM NEVER MOVING AGAIN) and have a lot of good reviews, so I am hoping they will be sturdy enough to hold my writing library and some of my other books as well.

As for the desk, I decided to go back to a local antique store where I’d seen a lovely small desk last winter. My daughter had tried to talk me into buying it then, but it didn’t feel right to buy more furniture while trying to downsize. Luckily for me, the desk was still there, and the already reasonable price had been reduced by about 30%. Maybe it was meant to be.

Although the nice lady at the store called it “Regency”, I believe, based on the price and its similarity to some of the other vintage/antique furniture I own, that it is no earlier than Edwardian and more likely to be around 1930. Which doesn’t matter to me at all, because 1) I could afford it, 2) it will make it up the stairs, and 3) it’s really pretty! I think it would not have looked out of place in a Regency lady’s drawing room.

 

Early “desks” were often just portable writing boxes with a slanted top and a little storage inside, and then could be placed on top of other tables. Here’s an illustration.

Jane Austen used a portable desk like the one picture. Here’s a JASNA article about it.

Small desks like mine could be seen as an evolution: adding legs to the portable desk. Here’s an image of a lady from Costume Parisien with a similar small desk, or escritoire. This one is of a type called a “cylinder desk”, a precursor of what we call “roll top” desks.

Mine can be called a “drop front” or “slant front” desk. Here’s an example of one that is c. 1810, so they were definitely around.

Further evolutions of this sort of desk  added bookcases above and/or drawers or cabinets below.  I have seen all variations sometimes called “escritoires” and sometimes “secretary desks”. The term “secretary” does not refer so much to the occupation as the fact that there were places in the desk to “secret” things away.

Anyway, I am really happy with mine, and looking forward to bringing it upstairs once the bookshelves arrive and I can unpack all the books. In the meantime, I have been going out to local coffee shops to write. I have friends who say they work best in clutter, but I find it distracting and a bit guilt-producing, because I feel I should be cleaning and not writing.

How about you? Can you work in chaos or do you prefer a tidy workspace? Do you have any favorite items in your writing or office space?

Elena

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Hair combs and ribbons and more, oh, my!

Let’s face it, ladies, even if your new dress is up to the very latest fashion standard in style, color, and fabric, if your accessories are not equally splendid, someone’s bound to notice. And you know what that means. If they notice, they’re going to gossip. We mustn’t have that!

Here then, are a few ideas about accessories to help you (or your female characters) stave off that terrible fate. Instead of the travel piece I had planned for this month, I am going to share some of the lovely items I was fortunate to see last week in an exhibit at the Concord Museum (Concord, MA) running through August. It was entitled “Fresh Goods: Shopping for Clothing in a New England Town, 1750-1900.” The first words were taken from a November 1816 Concord newspaper ad offering fabrics such as “figured flannels, crimson bombazettes, and white and black cambricks”.

While not a huge exhibit (small museum) and rather broad-ranging in time, the displays included some positively lovely pieces, and we were allowed to take pictures. Some items are American-made (although in the early 1800’s many goods were still imported), but at the equivalent time they still followed the fashions we are used to seeing in Regency England.

Let’s begin with hair combs. Not the kind for combing out your hair after you’ve washed it, the kind made of tortoiseshell and carved in intricate designs, to ornament your hair on a special evening or to impress a certain special someone. They had several beautiful examples in the exhibit, and I was reminded that such hair combs could be a lovely gift if your characters need one.The stylishness of wearing them is well-documented in portraits and silhouettes of the period –you wouldn’t want to perpetuate your image wearing anything unfashionable! (The comb and box in the center belonged to Henry David Thoreau’s aunt, Maria, and is dated 1813. The small portrait at right, of Mercy Davis, is dated 1818.)

Then we have ribbons. Ribbons for hair, of course, (see portrait at top, not from the exhibit) and especially ribbons for bonnets. Another possibility for gift-giving, and less costly than a comb. Distinctive and handsome ribbon was one way to make sure your new bonnet wouldn’t look too much like someone else’s, heaven forbid! 

 

I think you can see that the bonnets pictured would be fairly generic without the lovely wide ribbons that make such a fashion statement.

The exhibit included some samples of ribbons –moiré taffeta, grosgrain, of course, and the one on the left which looked suspiciously like a modern machine-woven trim I might buy for decorating a costume! But it represents yet another type to consider.

Even if your hair is dressed perfectly and ornamented with a beautiful comb, and your ribbons are gorgeous and unlike anyone else’s, there’s still the matter of your gloves, your fan, your reticule. Are they color-coordinated to go with your dress or your pelisse? Is your fan the latest style –with feathers, or without? This beautiful beaded reticule  in the exhibit was paired with a pair of blue kid gloves dyed to match the shade of this fan –ivory sticks, blue silk leaves, and originally with blue feather tufts at the top ends! 

As writers (and readers), we know all of these delicious bits are fodder for story-telling. So here’s a question just for fun: for writers, how have you made use of fashion accessories, or an accessory, in a scene you’ve written? For readers, can you remember a scene you’ve read where a fashion accessory played a part in what happened? (Let’s say other than fans, for we all know how easily those can play a role!) Please share with us in the comments section below! Thanks for visiting. 🙂

Posted in Clothing, History, Regency, Research | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Apologies, hope to be back soon!

Moving has kept me from a lot of things I enjoy–like hanging out at the Risky Regencies. This move has been more problematic than most, and I’m still dealing with items that were damaged by the Movers from Hell and other matters.

The new house has plenty of room for me, my college student daughters, and our stuff–even our books! But it lacks proper storage–especially for our books! This picture is of my future writing room. My writing desk didn’t make it around the bend in the stairwell, so I have bought a new one and will pick it up once things are more settled. Although is not quite Regency era (I am guessing early 1900’s) it makes me think of what a Regency lady might have used. I will post a picture once I get it home. One of my largest bookcases didn’t make it up the stairs (sob!) so I am planning to buy some modular shelving that can be built inside the room. For now, everything has to stay in boxes, and my writing remains on hold until I get other, more critical areas of the house functional, like the kitchen (although I did find the coffee maker).

Anyone have stories to tell of past moves. Advice for coping until I can find things?

Thanks for your patience, everyone. I will be back soon, I hope!

Elena

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Familiar Foods From the Eighteenth Century

Today’s post is going to be short and sweet (pun intended). I’ve been coming up blank all week about a topic to post about (nothing was grabbing me). So last night I pulled out my copy of Hannah Glasse’s The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy with the intention of finding the strangest, most unfamiliar recipes I could. Instead, I immediately stumbled across apple fritters. APPLE FRITTERS!!! How on earth aren’t our characters living on these?

Apple Fritter Recipe

So now I’m looking for other familiar stuff … and what do I spot but Pain Perdu. FRENCH TOAST!!! Fricken French toast is period. Why aren’t my characters eating this constantly? Also, now I want French toast.

Sure looks like French Toast to me!

Ok, this last one I’m not at all sure about: Flour, powdered sugar, egg whites, butter, cream, and blanched almond flour. It’s not a macaroon, but it’s definitely some kind of almond cookie. Historical cooking sites show me things that seem like shortbread or a drop cookie. They appear to have been around since the Middle Ages, and I’ve never heard of them! So these are now on my list of things to make and taste.

What is a Jumballs?

Any familiar foods you’ve been shocked to discover were period for the characters you were writing or reading about?

Posted in Anything but writing, Food, Frivolity, History, Isobel Carr, Research | 2 Comments

Walking Bath

One of the joys of writing Historical Romance is the research and the best way to research is to go to the places you write about.

Some writers get a story idea and then they go to the location of the story and do some research. Me, I visit a place and then make up a story using that setting.

That’s what I did for A Lady Becomes a Governess, Book 1 of my Governess Swap series, out this month from Harlequin Historical and Mills and Boon Historical. A Lady Becomes a Governess was mostly set in the Lake District. I visited the Lake District (and fell in love with it) on my last England trip with Kristine Hughes Patrone’s Number One London Tours.

Kristine and I also spent a day in Bath–the hottest day of the year there–90 degrees F. We walked Bath from one end to the other, seeing most of the famous buildings and streets, so when I needed a setting for Book 2 of my Governess Swap series, Bath was perfect.

My hero and heroine needed to walk Bath much like Kristine and I did. They walked from the Pump Room to the Royal Crescent to the Upper Assembly Rooms. Because I’d been there last year, I remembered vaguely where things were, but, for the book, I needed a map so I could be as accurate as possible.

I found a very cool one, HERE. It shows a present day map that can be overlaid with a historic map. You can move the circle to anywhere on the modern day map. My book is set in 1816, so I used the map from 1818.
This gave me the names of the streets in 1818, some of which were different than today.

Of course my hero and heroine had to visit the Royal Crescent and the Circus.
As I was researching the Royal Crescent and the Circus, I discovered that a navy Admiral, Admiral Sir Richard Bickerton, lived in the Circus and he fit perfectly into my book! I love when that happens.

I also needed two inns and a little searching led me to the AustenOnly blog and to the White Hart Inn, which was where Jane Austen had the Musgroves staying in Persuasion. The White Hart was torn down in 1869, but this wonderful blog even had a picture of the inn.
The second inn was where I briefly had my hero and heroine stay. The Westgate Inn was where the Royal Mail coaches stopped.

This year I’m going to Scotland with Kristine and Number One London Tours. I’ve never set a book in Scotland…….Here’s to a first time!

Do you ever use travel to inspire a story? Do you like to visit places where books, TV, or movies were set?

By the way, A Lady Becomes a Governess is available now in both ebook and paperback if ordered directly from Harlequin. The paperback will be at other online vendors June 19 and the ebook on July 1.

Posted in History, Places, Regency, Writing | Tagged | 1 Comment